I stand here Outside of myself And watch me Commence the journey Into venerable vulnerability- At least that’s what the young call it; It doesn’t feel venerable yet.
I watch with surprise- This old body that once could stave off All manner of ailment and bounce back Stronger, Now fights a succession of infections On a pilgrimage to commune with the Bones Of my once stately cathedral.
I stand here Outside of myself And watch me Cry through the loss. Like an ancient willow wailing Over limbs taken by thankless winds, I feel the phantom sensations of my Coveted limbs-
Strength Endurance Agility
If I stand here Outside of myself long enough I will see green-leafed limbs Poke through the paneless windows Of the bone cathedral-
Patience Acknowledgement (what is is) Letting-go
I stand here Outside of myself Awestruck by this holy episode We call life.
At some point in our spiritual journey we may feel the terror of falling into empty space without a net. Without landing. Just falling, falling, falling. Until we hear that voice of the divine, “I’ve got ya.”
I experienced this dream as a child, plagued by the fallout of PTSD. I can’t identify when I heard the voice or how it manifested, but the dream stopped. Instead of falling into empty space my spirit began expanding to reclaim it. No doubt my daytime world had become safer. No doubt I had discovered the Divine.
Sometimes the voice has to rise above some unhealthy ego chattering and I don’t hear it, but I know it’s always there. Perhaps the spiritual journey is a journey toward embracing the fall. Like the nimbleness of a child whose muscles and bones relax into a fall, we train our spirits to be nimble and let go.
Something for us to ponder today. Blessings on you and yours.
I love Rile because he responded with integrity to the call he heard from the country of uncertainty. We have no control over that call. We especially have no control over it in this time of pandemic. I am, at least sometimes successfully, choosing to embrace the uncertainty and the lessons it offers me. It’s a good end-of-this-life practice, I think. Luke’s story of the prodigal son is here
The Departure of the Prodigal Son
To go forth now from all the entanglement that is ours and yet not ours, that, like the water in an old well, reflects us in fragments, distorts what we are.
From all that clings like burrs and brambles— to go forth and see for once, close up, afresh, what we had ceased to see— so familiar it had become. To glimpse how vast and how impersonal is the suffering that filled your childhood.
Yes, to go forth, hand pulling away from hand. Go forth to what? To uncertainty, to a country with no connections to us and indifferent to the dramas of our life.
What drives you to go forth? Impatience, instinct, a dark need, the incapacity to understand.
To bow to all this. To let go— even if you have to die alone.
Is this the start of a new life?
Rainer Maria Rilke in A Year with Rilke Translated and Edited by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows
Is a golden gun.
It was not easy to hold it against my head
I needed great faith in my master
To suffocate myself
With his holy bag
Full of truth.
I needed great courage
To go out into the dark
Tracking God into the unknown
And not panic or get lost
In all the startling new scents, sounds,
Or lose my temper
Tripping on those scheming
Night and day around me.
Effacement is the emerald dagger
You need to plunge
Deep into yourself upon
This path to divine Recovery—
Upon this path
efface[ ih-feys ]
verb (used with object), ef·faced, ef·fac·ing.
to wipe out; do away with; expunge:
to efface one’s unhappy memories.
to rub out, erase, or obliterate (outlines, traces, inscriptions, etc.).
to make (oneself) inconspicuous; withdraw (oneself) modestly or shyly.
Ever So Dear Hafiz,
In principle I experience this experience you’ve opened up for us; however, as a creature of the twenty-first century and one schooled in psychology, I am compelled to qualify. For me, it is the unhealthy manifestations of ego that I seek to efface, not my Self, the deepest self where divinity makes its home, if I let it.
With that said, dear sage, I now offer a way beyond this pandemic surging through our world today. In spite of the attention many pay to the needs of the common good, this virus has also unleashed a dis-ease of the worst kind. It has loosened the already tentative grip we had on the virtue of selflessness. Ego selfishness gravely threatens body and soul.
So, yes, let us efface, I say. Let us efface selfishness and greed and take on the posture of a parent who would sacrifice anything for the good of their child. We are all one another’s child now. Let us walk this path to “Divine Recovery” together.
This heartfelt offering comes to us from my friend Vija, who waits in empathic prayer for her friend’s child to heal from the haunting feelings that threaten her life.
In time of anticipatory grief
Bring comfort to those who endure pain so great
that ending their life to stop such suffering makes perfect sense.
Spread peace like grass seed on the souls of those who love them,
those whose thought, each second of every hour, is for the safety of their beloved.
Let that seed take root and build up a prairie of undulating grasses,
beauty to behold for the poor in spirit.
Comfort those who sleep lightly, anticipating disaster and the worst of news, all night long.
You – you are deeply asleep in the stern of the boat, tucked up snuggly against the wooden ribs,
wrapped in wool that repels the splashing waves, lying on a dense cushion.
We here are panicked – trying to navigate while sinking, shouting to be heard above the storm.
The boat is tipping so perilously that we beat the oars aimlessly against the air
as frequently as we plow them through the water.
We, furious, shake you awake – pissed off that you would relax in such a moment as this.
You chasten us (what??) then right the boat, flatten the water whose area under the wet,
curved surface was as complex as a calculus equation only seconds ago.
Faith – where is our faith, you demand?
Because apparently sometimes, peace is present, but for the asking.
So – Ask.
Maybe bail for a bit, too:
praying and cursing as you toss bucket after bucket of water
out of the boat and back into the lake.
How do we cope with the pace of covid 19? This poem was my outlet. It is heavy, but the times are heavy and allowing myself to feel puts me in solidarity with the suffering of others, and my own suffering. I hold all of you in my prayer.
Respite (Upon seeing Aid Units take neighbors to hospitals)
Last night Lopsided Luna Had shrunk to a sliver While I rested safely In the crook of her crescent elbow.
Yet today, as sometimes happens here, Sol soars above the Salish Sea In full, bold brilliance Prompting squints to soothe and temper. But try as we might to temper traffic- The Aid Units keep on coming.
How I long to stagger the relentless surge Of this viral onslaught. Let me linger longer in that calm crescent cave Where raw sadness can live its way back to hope, Where I can hone the creed That all is well- Regardless.
C. Rita Hemmer Kowats 4-20-2020 Birthday of my father George J. Kowats +1988
Little did I know when I first posted this piece, that it would become far more haunting and applicable to today’s experience of a pandemic.. I wondered if human beings, like mountain goats, are spiritually coded to stand on the ledges of spirit. May we not fall off. And if we do fall off, may we land well. Godspeed everyone.
The reflections of Jan Richardson always delight and enrich me. This piece I meditated on today seems particularly apt nourishment for us now.
Richardson reflects on Hildegard von Bingen’s work, Scivias, in which the mystic personifies virtues. “Longing stands next to Patience,” says Hildegard, and Richardson reflects, “Yes, and I am wedged in between them. How do Patience and Longing live together in you?”
A question for us to ponder as well.
“Longing stands next to Patience”
Longing would sometimes like to be assigned a different spot. Would like to be less near this one who approaches everything with such equanimity. Would like some distance from the measured way that Patience marks time, holds herself with such politeness toward its passing. Patience knows this about Longing. Accepts it, even loves it about her. This makes Longing crazy. Patience has not told her she has some envy of Longing’s perfect ache or that she thinks it must be an art to hold oneself so perpetually poised toward the horizon. For her part, Longing has not confessed that there are days she finds Patience restful. Soothing. A relief. Meanwhile, by little and by little, so slowly its appearance will startle them both, a horizon is drawing near.
May Longing and Patience teach you by turns: not just the fire but the tending of it, not just the well but the digging; not just the vision but the enduring it asks, by day and by darkness drawing us on.
In the Sanctuary of Women: A Companion for Reflection and Prayer by Jan L. Richardson